A bit of controversy has erupted in advance of the Frank DeMiero Jazz Festival which takes place later this month in Edmonds.

The Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra (SWOJO) had been contacted by Executive Producer Joe DeMiero in mid-January to back up vocalist Carmen Bradford on Saturday, February 28. According to members of SWOJO, a fee had been negotiated and preparations were underway for the evenings music. Doug Reid had been hired to direct the band, replacing Daniel Barry who had a scheduling conflict, and DeMiero had promised to send a contract. As late as Tuesday, February 10, SWOJO was advertised on the Frank DeMiero Jazz Festival’s website.

On February 8, SWOJO Executive Director Carolyn Caster emailed band members that she was notified by DeMiero that he had continued to look for cheaper groups and had found one that was willing to perform all three nights of the festival for the same price SWOJO was getting paid for a single concert. Caster expressed her dismay that DeMiero would continue to search for another group when he had already hired one, but in the end DeMiero informed SWOJO that the festival would be going with the other band.

Contacted by Seattle Jazz Scene, DeMiero said in an email, “It is the policy of our organization not to discuss artist negotiations with anyone but the artists and their management. We have tremendous respect for the Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra and its members, and we hope to have the opportunity to work together in the future.”

On Wednesday, February 11, the Frank DeMiero Jazz Festival’s website was updated replacing SWOJO with the Mach One Jazz Orchestra.

All of this adds a cloud over what otherwise is a stellar line-up of headliners. The festival’s focus is on providing a non-competitive educational environment for 40+ school ensembles from around the Pacific Northwest. One of the headliners, Sara Gazarek, previously performed at the festival when she was a student at Roosevelt High School in Seattle.

Said one member of SWOJO, “It devalues the work we do and ruins it for everybody. Since DeMieiro now knows that he can get a band to work for this little money, it will never be what is was: a decent paying gig for good musicians. In the end, that festival will get what they pay for and the music will suffer. ”

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